How to survive morning meetings at your manufacturing facility

Nov. 23, 2021
Morning meetings can be tense. That’s because the maintenance representative has to provide spot updates on a wide range of topics, some that relate to critical jobs like a downed production line.

Morning meetings can be tense. That’s because the maintenance representative has to provide spot updates on a wide range of topics, some that relate to critical jobs like a downed production line. All eyes are on maintenance, and the wrong answer is a rough way to start your day.

Most manufacturing facilities start the day with a morning meeting. Led by plant management, representatives from each department review priorities for the current day to ensure they’re all aligned. That representative could easily be you as a reliability pro.

Here is a brief guide on how to survive your morning meeting.

Rule #1: Come prepared

The easiest way to faceplant during a morning meeting is to come unprepared. A typical situation goes like this: seemingly out of nowhere, the plant manager asks you about the status of a machine and you have no idea. You can’t respond and twist in the wind while your peers and managers stare at you disapprovingly. Pro tip: avoid this.

The solution is to meet with the maintenance team prior to the morning meeting to go over any emergent work, so that there are no surprises from other departments. In general, it is important to stay abreast of the overall department workload. Broad awareness of maintenance responsibilities will be your best bet for not getting caught flat footed.

Rule #2: Avoid conflict

Let’s talk Dale Carnegie and how to get the most out of your coworkers. I’ve written before about my fondness for his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I strongly recommend his work, especially if you’re in management.

A major theme is that engaging in argument, particularly publicly, is counterproductive because it puts people in a defensive posture, making it very difficult to achieve your own goals. Morning meetings are the perfect place to put Carnegie’s philosophy in action. If production is down, there is a clear incentive for departments to blame each other in order to protect their own raises, bonuses, evaluations etc.

Resist it, because finger-pointing will certainly backfire. Maintenance needs to work well with other departments in order to accomplish pretty much anything. Spats or hard feelings can easily complicate that mission. Also, appearing combative is not a good look for anyone. Upper management values teamwork.

Rule #3: Don’t troubleshoot in public

Rules 1 and 2 lead us directly rule 3, which is do not engage in public troubleshooting. There is a tendency to troubleshoot that occurs naturally in the morning meeting setting and should similarly be avoided. If we analyze the outcomes, there is no path for success.

Starting with the best outcome, say you really nail it and publicly demonstrate superior technical knowledge, earning respect and admiration from friends and detractors alike. News flash: no one will remember five minutes later when the next crisis instantly wipes clean the plant’s collective short-term memory.

On the other hand, what happens if you get something wrong? Troubleshooting can become speculating very quickly, and the odds are stacked against you. You’re thinking on the fly, without looking at the equipment, while a million other problems are in the back of your mind all at the same time.

As a reliability pro, your reputation means a lot, and staking public claims can be damaging if they don’t turn out to be correct. It’s much better to save your problem solving for more favorable conditions: outside of the high-pressure meeting, with time to think and a team to work with.

Rule #4: Try and enjoy yourself

The last rule is to try and enjoy yourself. Sometimes it’s hard, particularly if production or maintenance are in a slump working OT and constantly under pressure. Over time, and with a solid reliability strategy, things can and will get better. Morning meetings are a great time to interact with coworkers. Lighten up and try and start the day on a positive note.

Attitude will go a long way towards team success and is contagious. What better place to start than at your morning meeting?

About the Author

Alex Ferrari

Alex Ferrari, CMRP, is a Maintenance Manager of a specialty cosmetics manufacturer in Charlotte, NC. He has worked in the chemical and nuclear industries both in the US and abroad in Argentina. As a blogger and as a maintenance professional, Alex aims to explore the challenges faced by small and mid-sized facilities without the budget for by-the-book reliability programs.

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